Despite its long history, the cloning of animals by nuclear transplantation is going through a "renaissance" after the birth of Dolly. The amount of work and achievements obtained in the last seven years are probably greater than those obtained in half a century of research. However, the principal obstacles outlined years ago with the work on somatic cell cloning in amphybia, are all still there in mammals. The importance of somatic cell nuclear transfer is, without any doubt, beyond the scope of replicating superior animal genotypes. It is an invaluable experimental tool to address fundamental scientific issues such as nuclear potency, cell de-differentiation, chromatin structure and function, epigenetics, and genome manipulation. For these reasons the importance of cloning is not for what it can achieve but for the technical support it can provide to biomedical research and in particular to the study of epigenetics, cancer and stem cell biology, cell therapy and regenerative medicine. In this introductory paper we will summarize the intellectual and technical framework of cloning animals by nuclear transfer that still remains the only absolute way of judging the success of the procedure. Together with the achievements of the recent past we will mention the very last developments and the many questions that still remain open. Current research efforts are expected to provide some answers and certainly new questions.